Wilton Select Board talks taxes and bridges

WILTON – The town’s deteriorating bridges and an operating budget projected to rise by 10 percent, or $500,000, took up much of the meeting of the Select Board on Monday, Jan. 14.

The board met with Sean James and Josif Bicja of Hoyle, Tanner Associates to discuss the Stagecoach Road Bridge which is currently red-listed and is on the state bridge plan 2021.

The engineers were “looking for feedback for an engineering study of a lot of options,” Bicja said.

The discussion included replacing or repairing the bridge, which is in a rural area and is currently restricted to single cars. Should it be widened, the load limit raised to 15 tons, the abutments replaced, and what kind of bridge is wanted – wood frame, steel beam, or concrete? At 30 feet, it is considered a small bridge.

Board Chair Kellie-Sue Boissonnault said they wanted “to get it off the red list.”

The current concrete abutments, Bicja said, apparently cover older stonework. The current bridge dates to the 1940s. Raising the load limit to 15 tons would allow “the current truck traffic,” UPS, oil delivery, trash trucks. Those trucks now come in from the other end of the road.

The engineering study was approved, and the company will return with the results of an analysis, a proposal, and projected costs.

Selectman Kermit Williams said he was concerned about the projected rise in the operating budget and that “our 20 percent of the cost will be more than we have.” He wondered if there were options to using the state program and said the town should start putting money into a capital reserve account.

Stagecoach Road is one of three bridges on the current list. King Brook Road work is underway and emergency repairs have been made on Old County Farm Road, a historic stone arch. Fish said he “expected to hear that bridge has collapsed.”

The town has a capital reserve account for bridges in general and Williams said that account could be renamed with the select board named as agents to spend it as needed. “We need to look at both repair and replacement.”

In discussing the budget, Williams said they “need to go over it line by line. This is going to be a hard year and we don’t need to add another bridge.”

Boissonnault said she had talked with department heads and suggested the board look at overtime accounts.

Williams said a warrant article is required each year the town is holding a lease.

Further discussions are planned with the Budget Committee. The public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5.

In other business, the board met with Chris Balch and the Energy Committee to continue discussion of placing solar panels on the fire station.

Fire Chief Jim Cutler said he had “a variety of reservations, including the cost.” His main problem, he said, was the roof of the original station, which is 60 years old “and getting tender.” He said it wouldn’t support the panels.

Since over 80 percent of the roof would be covered, and engineering study is needed. Discussions will continue but there will not be a warrant article this year.

Balch also said that a recent study of upgrading the town’s 134 street lights would cost about $41,400 with rebates of about $14,300. The remainder would be paid through savings on the electricity bill. Another public hearing will be held.

Williams said he wanted more details on the planned upgrade of the town’s computer system. He said he thought some estimates “were too high.” He said, “It’s a lot of money” and wondered if the upgrade could be phased. “I’m concerned about the budget.”

The next board meeting is set for Jan.21. Board meetings now begin at 6 p.m.